M. One-piece billiard cues and marquetry.

Very few cues from before 1850 still exist and they are unlikely to be identified because they are not signed or shown on catalogues. Some signatures appear in the late 1800s. For more details, see Section Q. History.

Manufacturers of marquetry cues presented below could not be identified. The names assigned to cues refer to their probable period of manufacture.

1. First half of the 1800s.

Here are three very rare marquetry billiard cues.

a. A Charles X (*).


Length = 140 cm and weight = 400 g. Without splice. No triangular plate but a small bevel at the butt end covered with an ivory bumper (diameter = 36 mm). The other end is very large (diameter = 17 mm), has no ferrule and was probably originally provided with a leather tip. Simple marquetry, on a light-coloured wood background, of rosewood leaves and geometric forms and of fine black wood lines.

This billiard cue is currently the oldest of the collection.

b. A marquetry Charles X - Louis-Philippe.

Its marquetry is composed of a splice and two triangular plates, all three surrounded by three veneers.

As can be seen below,

the back part of the cue butt is probably made of very rare burl mahogany wood.

Length = 138 cm, weight = 474 g. Butt end diameter = 36 mm and tip (stuck without ferrule) diameter = 16 mm.

c. A Louis-Philippe (**).

Length = 140 cm and weight = 440 g. Reverse rounded 'Vignaux' style, two-veneer splice. Ivory bumper (diameter = 35 mm), partly covered with leather. The other end is provided with a leather 16 mm tip, perhaps affixed later without ferrule. Wooden marquetry of fine lines, foliage, flowers and a dancing girl. Ivory triangular plate with 3 veneers, signed Bonnet (***). The back of the cue is the same except for a brown wood triangular plate. The small picture shows a side view of a portion of the splice with veneers and fine lines.

2. Second half of the 1800s.

a. Here is a series of Napoleon III (****) billiard cues.

Lengths range from 128 to 138 cm and weights from 420 to 550 g. Bases have one or two bevels and no bumpers. Tips are single or double and their diameter goes up to 15 mm. Cues 2 to 5 are nicely decorated with fine marquetry (see left) and have triangles on both sides. Nos. 2, 3 and 5 have a reverse rounded 'Vignaux' style, four coloured veneer splice and seams like those shown and described in Section C. Cues 1 and 6 are '4-point' ones. Cue 4 splice is remarkable. It is a rounded 'Vignaux' style, two veneer, double side-by-side reversing splice.
Some marquetry motives are zoomed below: a man, flowers and books.

Left to right: cues 1 to 6.

The man is carrying a shotgun under his arm and a game bag over his shoulder, is wearing gaiters and, as is shown below, is holding something in his hand.
The backs of cues 2 to 5 are replicas of the fronts shown above, except for the triangle, which is in wood instead of ivory as in the case of cue 4

and the second man represented on cue 3, who is wearing a hat with a feather and a (hunting ?) sword. Here are two photos, a full-scale one and a close-up of his head where the marquetry work with thin slices of coloured wood can be better appreciated.


Note that a more advanced restoration of the front of cue 2 should include as many white inlays as the back shown below.

Below, two cues with a reverse rounded 'Vignaux' style splice. Their marquetrry made of coloured wood on a dark background, is composed of flowers, foliage, scrolls, lines and

a jug

or a woman wearing a hat.

The lines of the above cue

are worked.

b. Here is a cue with a '4-point' splice,

decorated with the same man as the first one in cue 3.

The small photo shows that he is holding a bright round object in his hand that might be a 'miroir aux alouettes' (= a lure for attacting birds). This leads us to believe that he is the helper of the second person, the hunter.
The rear of the cue is decorated with rounded point veneers.


This cue, which is short (1m30) and has neither triangles nor seams, was probably used to play Bagatelle, a billiards-derived game.

c. Finally, here is a magnificently decorated cue.

Its remarkable usual and Boulle (*****) marquetry is made of numerous enamelled surfaces, 56 mother-of-pearl pieces and a lot of inlaid fine gilt bronze motifs.

It probably goes back to the late 1800s and is mainly made of ash and pear veneer stained black. Its splice is a rounded 'Vignaux' style, six veneer, double side-by-side reversing splice.

The butt end has 2 triangles, one in brown wood and the other in ivory (?). They are both surrounded by 3 veneers. The brown triangle is bevelled (see picture right). Hence the particular shape of the bumper covered with leather that could be used to push a ball when it was still allowed to play in this way. Discovered in England, this cue, weighing 470 g, 145 cm long and provided with a 10 mm tip, has probably been used to play snooker and/or English billiards.

Note that marquetry cues were made by cabinetmakers or firms that did not sign their work.

See also:

- in Section C: another old superb usual and Boulle marquetry cue ('two-piece').

Their maker is probably the same because they have gilt bronze inlays in common, see the cartouche, ornamental frame used in the late 1800s, below and the motif on the right.

- in Section J . 1 : a rare Mace-like cue with seven consecutive '4-point' splices. Two of them are shown below.

- in Section J . 5 : a cue whose butt end has a particular marquetry shape, probably a stylized bee.


(*) This style (1824-1830), also called Restauration Style, is characterized by the use of light-coloured wood (maple, sycamore, lemon tree, beech, etc...) and by wood inlays of contrasting colours representing foliage and fine lines.

(**) This style of the 1830 to 1848 years uses darker woods than the previous one, such as mahogany, reddish rosewood and walnut.

(***) Teyssèdre's Book 'Théorie et règles du jeu de billard' (1827) contains a plate engraved by Bonnet.

(****) Sometimes called Second Empire Style, this style (1852 to 1890) uses dark wood (pear tree stained black, mahogany, rosewood, ebony, etc...). It is richer than the previous one. The inlays are made of precious wood, mother-of-pearl, ivory, metal, ceramic, enamel, etc...and usually consist both of floral arrangements and fine marquetry lines.

(*****) André Charles Boulle was the main cabinetmaker of his time (1642-1732). He developed the inlay technique of gilt bronze, brass, tortoiseshell and other materials which was called Boulle marquetry. It went out of fashion around 1800 and was again used by many cabinetmakers during the second half of the 1800s (see paper by Vivian Miessen in www.fondationdemeuresetchateaux.be).